Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.


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The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Hale, S., Hale, D., & Pham, L. (ill.) (2014). The Princess in Black. Candlewick Press: Massachusetts. ISBN: 9780763665104

Annotation: When the monster alarm rings, Princess Magnolia jumps into action and transforms into her monster fighting alter ego, the Princess in Black!

Reaction: In this short beginning chapter book, the Hales introduce readers to the wonderful character of Princess Magnolia, who is a perfect, pink-wearing princess, until it’s time to kick some monster tush. Then it’s time for Princess Magnolia to don practical shorts, boots and a cape in black.

One of the best things about this book is the way Princess Magnolia embraces both sides of herself: the girly, super feminine princess and the strong, capable, monster-tush-kicking superheroine. I recently came across a great article about how it does a disservice to children and women to treat girliness as being less good than tomboyishness, and I think, in light of that, the Hales have done something remarkable here. This is a book that tells children that being feminine and wearing pink is great! And so is going out and saving the kingdom from monsters! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and that’s a great lesson.

On top of that, the story is engaging and funny, and though this story is pretty brief, the Hales have managed to create fully realized characters and a world around them. The illustrations are bright and colorful and add a lot of whimsy and humor to the text.

I really, really hope there are going to be more adventures of Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black. The Hales have only begun to scratch the surface in this one.

Media used: watercolor and ink

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

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Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Trevayne, E. (2014). Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442498778

Annotation: Jack is tired of being ignored at home, so when he overhears a magician offer to train him, Jack is determined to make it happen. He follows the magician through a mysterious doorway, leading him into a different London and on a great adventure.

Reaction: First, let me say that I love love love the cover of this book. It is so beautiful and magical and mysterious, and it is the reason I picked this up and checked it out in the first place.

This book is in a genre called Steampunk, and Trevayne does a great job of introducing the reader to the fantastical world she has created. Her descriptions of Londinium are very vivid and really make you feel like you’re right there with Jack. The steampunk elements really help to highlight how different Londinium is from London, and I love the idea of a fairyland where all the creatures are living machines. The mechanical fairies, in particular, are a nice touch.

Trevayne populates Londinium with a cast of creative and clever characters. I loved the clockwork girl, and the Lady’s capriciousness made her genuinely scary, but it was Lorcan the magician who really turned out to be the most frightening character. He quickly reveals to the reader how jealous he is of the Lady’s affections, leading him to a deep hatred of Jack that only grows over the course of the book. He is the biggest threat to Jack, and I felt like he might really do some damage to Jack or his friends.

This is a fun, fantasy adventure that I think would appeal to boys and girls in 4th-6th grades. The steampunk elements could appeal to Doctor Who and Warehouse 13 fans. It was a quick read and a nice twist on a typical “lost in Fairy land” kind of story.

Minor spoilers below: Continue reading


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Chickenhare by Chris Grine

Grine, C. (2006). Chickenhare. Graphix. ISBN: 9780545485081

Reaction: Well, this was just delightful. I really enjoyed this quick, fun romp featuring weird animals and a scary Santa Claus figure. I think 10-13 year old boys, in particular, would really enjoy this.

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Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Baker, E. D. (2010). Wide-awake princess. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN: 9781599904870

Annotation: Annie’s fairy godmother gift is that no magic can touch her. After her older sister, Sleeping Beauty, pricks her finger and sends everyone in the castle into enchanted sleep, it’s up to Annie to find the solution.

Reaction: E.D. Baker has a pretty prolific series that is spun off from “The Frog Prince” (apparently, the first volume was the inspiration for the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog). I haven’t read any of those yet, but based on how quick and fun this one was, I might have to check it out. I actually don’t know why I didn’t pick up The Frog Princess from the library, as I’m pretty sure they had it on the shelf, and I had to request this one.

Anyways, the cover for this book is just delightful. It really sets the tone for the story; as the princess gazes out over a sleeping castle, the reader can see the adventure brimming in her eyes. This princess is full of spunk and ready to get out and see what the world has to offer. After everyone in the castle is asleep, she sets off to find her sister’s True Love, collecting as many princes as she can in the hopes that one of them can break the spell. Along the way, she meets many familiar fairy tale faces, wicked witches and enchanted princes, and she comes to realize that she wants more than magically beautiful, boring perfection.

This was a fast, fun read. I love all the other fairy tale characters Baker throws in the story, and I love Annie’s independence. She’s a great role model for young teen girls, and I do look forward to reading more of her adventures.

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The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

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Image from Goodreads.com

Lawrence, C. (2011). The case of the deadly desperadoes. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9781444001693

Annotation: P.K. Pinkerton walks into his family home just after his foster parents have been murdered by desperados disguised as Indians, and now they’re after him. What does P.K. have that has the most dangerous man around after him?

Reaction: I love a good western, so I was pretty excited when I first saw this at the library. It took me some time to get into this story, but I think I was trying to read at least three other books at the time, so the slow start was not necessarily the fault of the story. P.K. has a “Thorn” that means he cannot read other people’s emotions and has to rely on a list of facial expressions his foster mother gave him to give him an idea of the difference between happy, sad, angry and surprised. Thankfully, P.K. is also blessed with a perfect memory and good detecting skills. These attributes make me think that P.K. falls somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, though that is never explicitly stated.

As an adolescent boy on his own for the first time, P.K. has to navigate the lawless streets of Virginia City, Nevada and figure who he can trust in order to stay one step ahead of Whittlin’ Walt, the baddest, meanest, scariest desperado in the territory. His adventures take him all over the town and down into a mine shaft, which is where the story starts with P.K. writing down an account of everything that had happened so far. Once he gets to Virginia City, the story really gets going and each narrow miss makes the reader wonder how P.K. will ever get out of THIS mess?

I would recommend this book for readers who love adventure or westerns or stories where girls pretend to be boys (is P.K. a girl pretending to be a boy? Or a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy? That’s not a question Lawrence ever fully answers) or for kids who need or want to see a representation of a hero who is probably on the Autism Spectrum.

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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York: Graphiz. ISBN: 9780545326995

Annotation: As Callie tries to design and build the BEST SET EVER! for the school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s also got to deal crushes both old and new.

Reaction: I read Telgemeier’s Smile, her autobiographical account of undergoing massive dental work in middle school, for my Graphic Novels class in Spring 2012, and one of the things that I really about both that book and this one is that Telgemeier does a great job portraying what it’s like to be a 12 year old girl. Smily is great as it deals with friendships, good and bad, and trying to fit in despite looking different from everyone else.

Drama is wonderful because of the depictions of middle school theater. she really captures the camaraderie and drama and FUN of being in a theater program. I could totally relate, despite having my theater experiences in high school rather than middle school.

I love that Callie herself has no major drama in her life. She likes her family, she’s got good friends, and maybe she has some trouble with boys, but what 7th grade girl doesn’t?! The main conflict in the story is Callie and the rest of the theater group overcoming hurdles and trying to put on the best show they possibly can. Also, Callie likes some boys who may or may not like her back.

I love that Telgemeier prominently features a character who is gay, and that all his friends are accepting and loving toward him. Drama has a pretty diverse cast of well developed characters who are wonderful and fun.

If you’ve ever read The Baby Sitter’s Club graphic novels, than you’ll recognize the art in Drama, as Telgmeier illustrated both. I love her style. She has great cartoony characters and bright colors. The art is engaging and the panels flow really smoothly.

* A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012
* A Washington Post Best Book of 2012
* New York Times Editors’ Choice
* Booklist Editors’ Choice
* NPR: Graphic Novels that Flew Under the Radar
* New York Public Library’s 100 Titles For Reading and Sharing
* School Library Journal Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2012

Media Used: From the author’s FAQ: “I sketch out all my pages on plain 8.5 x 11 paper, and then create a full-sized version of those sketches on Bristol board, using a Col-erase light blue colored pencil. Over that, I pencil each panel pretty tightly with an F graphite pencil. Panel borders (and sometimes lettering, if I’m doing it by hand) are inked with a Faber Castell F pen. Finally, I ink over the penciled drawings with Dr. Martin’s waterproof India ink and a no. 2 Windsor & Newton sable brush, and erase the pencil lines with a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser.”

Author’s Website


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Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

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Krosoczka, J. J. (2009). Lunch Lady and the league of librarians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 9780375846847

Annotation: The Breakfast Bunch think the city’s librarians are hatching a nefarious plan. It’s up to Lunch Lady and Betty to foil the plot, but with they be able to defeat the Librarians’ secret weapon?

Reaction: This book was good fun, and I enjoyed the depiction of Evil Librarians. Plus, their Book Beasts were ingenious and hilarious.

Krosoczka uses panels to help the story flow, but the action scenes are just too big to be contained in a measely panel! Those scenes use full one and two page spreads to show the action, as well as allow some of the characters to escape the bounds of the panels, some of which are angled as if knocked ajar. Krosoczka also uses full page spreads to help set the scene: the 2 page illustration of the library and the one page one of the Book Fair.

This book uses alliteration in the title.

Media Used: Black india ink with a brush for the line work (a pen for some of the detail work) & color digitally w photoshop.

Author’s Website